Friday, 12 November 2010

Books vs Ebooks

I used to be one of those people who loved books. I don't mean reading, I mean I actually loved books themselves. The scent of a new book is quite unique and it's s scent I love, it makes me feel warm, safe and comfortable.

When I read a book, I took great pains not to bend the spine any more than necessary and I hated giving books away; keeping every book I had ever read was almost an obsession and I dreamed of one day having a library. Of course I had to part with them sometimes, usually when moving house and I was forced to choose between them, those I would read again and those I probably wouldn't. Sometimes if i loved a book and had read it many times, I would buy a new copy, not to read, just so that I still had a pristine version.

Maybe it was an intellectual snobbery but more likely it had it's roots in insecurity. Sure, i might be dyslexic, but I'll bet you haven't read this many books! Ha!

When I moved abroad I still took half my books with me (the other half I sent to an adoption centre, AKA charity shop). While living abroad though, my foible encountered a kink. English language books are very hard to come by in foreign countries, so much so that aside from the few new books I had sent to be from the UK, every book I read was second hand. There were no new book stored handy to browse, so I scoured markets and car boot sales instead.

I soon discovered that a battered, tatty second hand book was just as enjoyable as a new book, even without the new book smell. Then a second hand book shop opened up locally and I would pop in there at least once a week.

I also began to feel that, in an environment where books are so scarce, perhaps I was being selfish by hanging onto my copies, especially since they looked so ratty next to my older, pristine books. So I began to trade my books in. Surprisingly it wasn't as hard as I thought.

When i had to move back to the UK I was faced with a dilema, did I ship my books back again (most of which i still hadnt read a second time) or sell them? In the end I chose to sell all but perhaps a dozen of them, times were uncertain and carting boxes of books around just wasn't feasible.

So by the time i got back to the UK, i was over a lot of my book hangups. Still, I didn't really like Ebooks, they just weren't real books and when you finished one, you had nothing to show for your efforts other than a few MB's of space on a hard disk.

Then it happened. One of my favourite authors books was being released later in the UK than in the USA and it would take a few days to be posted to me (and if you know anything about me, you'll know that I have zero patience). So i bit the bullet, bought the Ebook version on the day of release and read it on my laptop.

And do you know what? An Ebook is just as enjoyable as a paper book. Just as captivating, just as thrilling, just as scary.

Since then, aside from a few books bought in charity shops, every book I have bought has been an Ebook. They're prefect for todays instant society. You want it, you buy it, thirty seconds later you're reading it. Plus, carting your Ebooks from house to house is SO much easier than paper books.

So that's how I joined the digital revolution. Now I just have to get an Ereader, i have a feeling it'll be even more fin if i;m not chained to my laptop!

Thursday, 11 November 2010

TV Drama needs more reality?

Jimmy McGovern isnt happy with British drama. He says

Commenting on the high viewing figures for costume dramas such as ITV's Downton Abbey and the popularity of arch adventure shows such as Dr Who, McGovern said he believed the best writing took itself seriously, as well as taking its audience seriously.
He goes on to say
Television drama should say more about the world we live in today and not rely on costumes, irony and pastiche.

The only way to tell stories on TV is to convince people that what they are seeing is actually happening now and is real. I just can't handle the tongue-in-cheek approach, the kind of thing you see on Dr Who. Though there are millions who can, I know
Now I do actually understand that way of thinking. My mother is very much like Jimmy McGovern and looks to real life for her entertainment. She only reads biographies or true crime and she watches true crime documentaries or crime drama's. The last science fiction film she watched was Star Wars in 1977, the year I was born. She accepts that I have very different tastes but she will not watch anything that couldn't be real.

I think however, that Jimmy McGovern misses the point of drama. Sure, some of it can tell real life tales and be relevant to the working man or womans life.

The trouble is, a lot of life is tough. Bloody tough. If he wants to spend his free time wallowing in more of the same misery (lets face it, his work is hardly a laugh fest) then he can do that.

Me? I want some escapist fun. I want to forget about my worries for a while and just enjoy a damn good story. I don't want to watch something that what will reminded me the prejudices I face, the bills I cant pay, the hopelessness of a dead end job, the misery of having been betrayed, the heartache of never being understood or the grief of losing a loved one.

What's more, I don't think that makes me a bad person or makes my views any less important than his.

I look to the news and the papers for real life. I look to the TV to be entertained.

I personally think my mother is obsessed with crime as a way to understand her violent father, and more power to her but she's 60 now and still doesn't seem to have come to terms with her past. I think Jimmy's obsession might also show he has unresolved issues regarding his upbringing and a lot of bitterness about being working class but that doesn't mean the rest of us have to wallow in our issues. Some of us like to deal with them, let go and move on.

But even assuming he's right, who's reality are we talking about? As a friend said

whose reality, exactly? Because mine, while not privileged, bears no resemblance to his. Would he write a drama about a quiet street where almost everyone is white and apparently comfortable, where if people are suffering discrimination, bereavement, fear and poverty - and I know they are - they are doing it politely behind closed doors and not talking about it? Where 20% of the teenage population walks to the station every day in smart Grammar School uniforms and everyone shops in Waitrose?

Thought not. But that doesn't make it any less real.
No. Reality is very subjective and issues vary greatly. There is a place for real life, gritty drams, and there is just as big a place for pure entertainment.

For the record, I chose to watch Single Father over Downton Abbey, but I somehow doubt many widowed fathers chose to relive their trauma.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010


Regardless of whether you agree with fanfiction or not, i think we can all agree that it is only borderline legal.

Personally i see no problem with it. If people ever write fanfiction about my characters, to me it will mean they have taken them into their hearts and minds. I take that as a compliment (not that there is any Past Due fanfic yet. To the best of my knowledge anyway).

Some people are encouraging fanfiction these days, they see it as a form of promotion. Few people are actively against it, though some authors do not allow any fanfiction and will issue a cease and desist notice. Most simply tolerate it knowing that the internet is too large to police properly and it's something that will probably never be eradicated.

But it is technically illegal. Fanfiction writers are using other peoples creations and usually only get away with it because they aren't making a profit.

Last year there was a huge internet saga about someone called Lady Sybilia who tried to publish her sequel to the Twilight books. Fandom pretty quickly slapped her down and let her know the situation. She protested for a while but it seemed she eventually got the message and decided to release the novel for free online.

Until now. Instead of learning her lesson she has kept her head below the parapet for a year and now released the former 'tribute sequel' as a parody, because parodies are exempt from copyright laws.

I really cant go into detail on the whole saga from a year ago because there's just too much crap to recap but here are some links where you can see for yourselves the true level of her delusion.

Part one, part two, part three, part four, part five, part six, part seven. (links go to Fandon Wank, a snark community)

Or you can read Lee Goldberg's posts which are much shorter but still informative. Post one, post two, post three, post four.

Friday, 30 July 2010

A dyslexic writer?

I have done a lot of self examination over the last five years. I have come to regignise my character flaws and come to terms with them, I have learned how to forgive and generally I am a content person. I still have issues but who doesn't? The difference is today I recognise my issues when they come up and can actively fight them.

Recently I realised the one exception to this was my dyslexia. I have never examined it and aside from reading enough to know I had it, I never delved any deeper.

It's time to change that and to examine exactly why I should let a condition over which I had no control affect my life.

I've known I was dyslexic since I was about 21 but have never been formally tested. As an adult I would have had to pay for a test (which cost about £400) and since I had already found my own coping mechanisms for most things I couldn't see the point.

I think I get my dyslexia from my Dad, but I didn't grow up with him, I hardly saw him and my mother and sister have a perfect grasp of the English language (and a couple of others). I felt like a freak. I didn't know that my Dad might be like me, I just knew that things that should come easily to me didn't. It didn't occur to me that conversely they didn't understand electricity, why the sun shone, how their washing machine, cars, radios and lights worked etc etc but all I could see was the ways in which I didn't measure up to them. They didn't and still don't care how the things around them work, so I didn't receive any praise for that sort of stuff. Until something was broken of course, then I was the go-to girl.

State school was hard, I was falling behind and acting out so after 3 years I was moved to a private school. I (mostly) loved it there, but there were many frustrating things. I hated that I was with children a year younger then me (I didn't meet my own age groups standards) I hated that even when I got every question right, some teachers would mark me down for poor writing and spelling. I hated that I had to have extra, one on one english lessons because everyone in the class knew where I went at lunchtime, I felt like an outcast. And it meant I had extra homework!

During summer holidays I sometimes had private tutors, I even had calligraphy lessons. I can do very pretty calligraphy, but I still cant write for toffees! Calligraphy is art, not writing. And it was still mis-spelt!

When I gingerly told my mother I thought I might be dyslexic (I felt like I was making an excuse for my spelling) she said she'd suspected and had asked my school about it, only for the Head to tell her dyslexia was a myth. There were 3 other dyslexics in my class but I guess their parents arranged for their tests.

I never held anything against my school, I did very well on my exams (especially the sciences) thanks to them, but only now as I'm trying to become a writer can I see the deep seated insecurities that my school and parents instilled in me.

As a young child I had something called Storyteller, which were comic books with accompanying audio tapes. I loved those and couldn't wait until a new one came out. But I gradually outgrew them and couldn't find anything else I wanted to read. My choices were Enid Blyton and Judy Bloom. I picked a couple up and soon put them down again. It wasn't until I discovered science fiction that I had a reason to want to read. I was then a pretty voracious reader, branching out into fantasy and horror. I was almost addictive, I would stay up all night just to find out how a good book finished.

Those stories also inspired me to write. Back then I scrawled my stories in notebooks, then on the school computer but I rarely showed them to anyone. One story I was really proud of I showed to my teacher. I don't remember if she liked it, I only remember seeing it covered in red ink. I think I got 6/10.

Still, I carried on writing because it was something I enjoyed. About the same time I discovered I was dyslexic I also discovered the internet. Here was somewhere I could share my stories and not have to worry about bad reactions. It didn't matter if people hated them because they didn't know who I was. As it turns out, 12 years ago the internet was a much nicer place and no one was mean or "flamed" me. I grew in confidence, found people who would proof my work and offer feedback before I posted it so my writing began to improve too.

Then when I was 25 I tried my first novel, showed it to my mother and felt crushed by her reaction. I stopped writing for a couple of years, my drinking got heavier and I hit rock bottom when I was 28. I don't blame my dyslexia for my being an alcoholic but those feelings of never being good enough certainly helped me on my downward spiral. I quit drinking on my 28th birthday with the help of AA and I haven't had a drink since. It's been a journey of self discovery since then, with this one noticeable exception.

When I was sending my manuscripts out last year, I felt like a fraud. A dyslexic writer. Ha, good one! I didn't mention it in my covering letter (which would have been a good selling point) and as rejection after rejection rolled in I wasn't surprised. Why would anyone want to read it?

This time though, I didn't stop writing. The sequel came and now I'm half way through the threequel. I showed it to some readers of that genre and they loved it but I still feel like a fraud. Me a writer! Pull the other one, it's got bells on.

A part of me still doesn't feel that it's real. For so long I have been told that I should be able to do X and Y but now that I have an actual reason why i cant do X and Y, or why I find them harder than normal people, I feel that I'm making an excuse. Let me be clear on that, I believe that dyslexia is real and i would believe anyone who explained their literacy (and some other problems) ob being dyslexic. It's just me who is the fraud.

It's hardly considering that just the other week when I tried to explain some of the results from my self examination on other topics to my sister (foolishly thinking she might gain some insight into herself) she told me I was a victim which is why I like labels.

I don't consider myself a victim. Shit happens, that's life. To moan and whinge about the relatively little shit in my life would be self indulgent in the extreme. However to overcome an issue, one must first understand it. You cannot learn to read without first learning the alphabet. You cannot learn to dance without first learning the steps. I need to understand what is happening inside my head before I can find ways to counteract it.

I don't know how I'm going to get over this but examining it is the first step which is why I'm joining forums, reading articles and examining my feelings on the subject.

Already I have discovered a lot of information that I never knew was related to dyslexia. Did you know that being untidy is common among dyslexics? As is difficulty managing time and appointments, reading analogue clocks, difficulty remembering right from left and dificulty remembering sequences, not just number sequences but things like lists and timelines.

I'm starting to understand why no one really understands me. I don't just have poor language skills, I have a totally different way of processing the world.

But dyslexia isn't all bad and different can be a good thing, if you also recognise the strengths it can give you. I'm in good company too! Here are some famous dyslexic writers and authors.

Stephen Cannell, television writer & novelist
Agatha Christie
W.B. Yeats
Hans Christian Andersen
Fannie Flagg (Author of "Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe")
F. Scott Fitzgerald

Examples of other famous people with dyslexic can be found here.

Why not find out if you might be dyslexic with this quick test.

Friday, 2 July 2010

Vamp Wars!

Are you Team Eric or Team Bill? If your answer is anything other than "Who are they?" then it's time to put your money where your mouth is!

In case you've been living under a rock, I am of course talking about True Blood.

There's a little friendly competition happening between Bill and Eric (AKA Stephen Moyer and Alexande Skarsgård).

Stephen and Alex are raising money for charity and whoever's fans donate the most money to the cause wins. Of course there's a catch, the loser has to wear a T-shirt designed my the winners!

For more info or details on how to donate, see

Right now, Team Eric are winning by over $1,000.

I must say, with all the negative attention fans receive even I sometimes start to think all fans are just a bunch of nutters! Which is why I love it when things like this happen, reminding everyone that most fans are actually lovely people who enjoy giving back.

Another event I loved was Fandom Rocks. It was started by fans to raise money for charity in the name of TV show, Supernatural. Unfortunately Fandom Rocks has now closed it's doors but the generosity of fans never ceases to amaze me.

Wednesday, 9 June 2010


When I first started watching Glee it was because it appealed to my closeted star. Most of us have one, he/she usually dreams of singing to packed houses but is either too scared to try, or knows they don't quite have the talent to match the dreams.

I'm mostly the former with a splash of the latter so this show was right up my alley. Even better, it was something i could watch with my teenage niece. There aren't too many programs around that we're equally crazy about.

Sure, the characters were mostly caricatures, the situations were straight from a soap opera and there wasn't a single character I really liked. Don't get me wrong, I didn't dislike them, I was just indifferent.

As such, Glee was a fun piece of escapism and nothing more. It had charm and I forgave it it's flaws.

The disabled boy, the gay character, the pregnant teen, the fat girl, to me they were all just token characters, there to either be politically correct or to be sensationalist. I was very cynical.

I kept those views for the most of the first half of the season. We were slowly given an insight into a few of their lives, but for the most part Glee was a very superficial show.

Then things started to change. Will grew a backbone. Of all the characters I suppose Will Schuester was my favourite, though that's not saying a lot. He was a weedy, wimpy bleeding heart liberal who talked a good game but didn't deliver. Week after week I wanted to bash his head in for being a doormat to his wife and the cheerleading coach, I wanted to beat some sense into him so he could see the lies. I mean, come on, man! My dogs wouldn't have put up with his wife's behaviour, and they lick their own arses!!!

Then one day, Will finds out the truth. It was a fleeting moment of real anger, but it made me sit up and watch. Hmm, maybe there was more to Mr Nice Guy than just a good voice. I wondered if this could not only last, but even spread to some of the other characters.

And low and behold it did. The pregnant girl, Quinn's lies were discovered, then she got kicked out of her house when her parents found out about the baby. Fat became an issue for Mercedes, the fat girl. Homophobia became an issue for Kurt, the gay kid. The disabled boy, Artie's dreams of walking were horribly (but honestly) crushed.

Fat girls do not miraculously get slim over night and have all their problems solved. They have to learn to love themselves for who they are, fat or thin.

Pregnancy isn't pleasant. At the best of times it drives most women a little crazy and I don't mean that mothers to be are hormonal. I'm talking about peeing every five minutes, loss of mobility, the inability to tie ones own shoe laces, loss of self, financial worries and worry over doing the right thing. Most adults have a hard time with this, teenagers have it even harder.

Paralysed people rarely walk again. For some lucky ones the damage to the spine isn't permanent (eg it caused by pressure on the spine) or isn't total and some function can be regained. Sadly for the majority, spinal injuries are life long. Artie didn't just get up and walk again because he hoped hard enough or dreamed long enough. It sucks. That's life. But do you know what? Artie didn't let it ruin his life. He took the blows, dusted himself off and carried on.

Homophobia can be very damaging to young gay men. They learn that to be accepted they need to change, hide certain aspects of themselves, laugh along with the gay jokes and try to fit in. Then along comes Kurt. Flamboyant, fey and shameless. His father loves him but admits he doesn't know how to handle it. The bullies pick on him, but Kurt fires right back with his barbed wit. He knows who he is and he knows there's nothing wrong with him. He flirts with "playing it straight" but knows that's not who he is. I don't blame gay men (or women) who do chose to hide their sexuality to fit in, but I am glad they have an out and proud role model on network TV.

Real life was beginning to interrupt this sugar coated world, and I was liking the results.

As the series progressed there were some real hardships coming to the fore, some real emotions poking through the shiny façade, and some real strength of character being shown in over coming these obstacles.

Are there still cartoonish plots? Sure. Are some characters still over the top? Absolutely. The only real difference? Now the show has heart.

For every soap opera plot line, over the top acting and sickly sweet scenario, there's also a truth being spoken.

For every unbelievable scene, like a headmaster believing that vampires are real, there's a moving scene, like Kurt's father comparing f*g to the N word.

Glee is truly unique television. It takes the things you shouldn't like (like show choir and fat people) or the issues that society as a whole shuns (like disability and homosexuality) and by making them cool, hopefully make the viewers question their own prejudices.

I've just touched on some of the issues raised in Glee, the more prominent ones or the ones that most spoke to me, but I think most kids are represented here. There's something for everyone and I hope in season 2 and 3 that Glee never forgets when it's at it's best. In other words, when the sublime compliments the ridiculous.

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Couple of things.

I have a few things to say but nothing worthy of it's own post, so here's a few mini posts.

Living a lie

This story about a gay man's journey towards coming out left me with very mixed feelings.

First of all, I can almost literally feel his pain. As normal as homosexuality is for me, I really do see how much prejudice is out there. I also know what it's like to live a lie, a lie you cant even admit to yourself, a lie that literally threatens to destroy you.

What I cant forgive though, and what is glossed over in this tale, is involving an innocent in that lie, namely his wife.

While he was living his lie, he always had a choice. A difficult choice, no doubt, but he chose to live that lie. He didn't give his wife a choice. When he was living that life he lied to her face, time and again. To ad insult to injury, when he made another choice to come out, he didn't even give her the respect of telling her first and hearing her input into she'd like things handled.

When he chose to stay in the closet, he had another choice. Play the playboy role, living it up with a gaggle of different women, women he wouldn't necessarily even have to sleep with, just be seen with. Or he could play the loving husband and father. One way doesn't hurt anyone, the other does. He made the wrong choice.

For 9 years or more, Wayne, you lied to her face every single day, either directly or by omission but you make no acknowledgement of that fact.

Whether you're gay, straight or bi-sexual, women are not yours to play with. We are not on this earth to make men's lives easier, we are not playthings you can use when convenient and disguard when you change your mind. We are people with our own thoughts, emotions and feelings. We deserve your respect, regardless of whether you are sexually attracted to us or not.

You used that poor women for 9 years and then discarded her when you decided you didn't what that lie any more. That is why I don't have any sympathy for you.

The BP Oil Spill.

I must confess I'm not a green. I don't cancel out my carbon foot print and I'm undecided about global warming since both sides make a compelling case (though the falsified data from the University of East Anglia does sway me slightly to the con side of the argument).

So when the oil spill happened I wasn't jumping all over BP. Accidents happen, they seemed to be trying to clear the problem up and I thought some people were being very harsh, especially considering how little is said over the 1.5 millions tons of oil Shell spilled in the Niger Delta (that's 50 times more than the Exxon Valdez spilled).

I was cynical, everyone was up in arms over poor America and it's wildlife, but not the Nigerians. I guess Nigeria isn't news worthy. I don't like hypocrisy and I didn't like how worked some people were about one while ignoring the other.

In recent days though I'm changing my mind.

Stories like this, in which BP are actively trying to hide the damage done to wildlife.

And this report, which shows that BP knew there were problems with the well and to save money, opted not to follow safety precautions.

Then (though I can't for the life of me remember where I saw this) we have the theory that BP wanted the junk shot to fail at blocking the spill because it really would prefer to drill 2 relief wells so it can still collect (and sell) the oil. Yes, it's borderline "conspiracy theory" but it does give me pause.

As much as I would hate for Britain to lose an(other) industry giant, I fear PB will not survive this. I also fear that by then, I'll think they deserve it.

You done wrong, BP. Stop hiding and trying to finesse your way out of blame. Admit it, do your best to stop the damage and then throw yourself on the public's mercy. I believe this is your only change of survival.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Book Covers

I have been sent some very early cover previews. These are my favourite two.

<- I like the simplicity of this one and it's very eye catching. I love the fact it's white because that's not what you expect when reading a vampire novel. While still being relevant to the book, in no way does this book say "this is a run of the mill, urban fantasy book". of course at the same time, in no way does it even say "This is an urban fantasy book".

-> Again, I like the simplicity of this one and the eyes. They're spooky and unusual. I also think is eye catching and it's more traditional, no one picking this up would be surprised to find it's an urban fantasy book.

Just because of how unusual the white cover is in this genre, I think that's my favourite.

What are your thoughts? The traditional dark background or the unusual white background?

Friday, 23 April 2010

Why is being gay still so sensational?

I will admit that when it comes to gays I probably come from a fairly unique perspective. My uncle is gay and all through my childhood it was just accepted that he and his friends had boyfriends. He was always around and he's been a bigger influence in my life than my own father. In fact my earliest memory is him picking me up from playschool. His friends were welcomed and his boyfriends were treated like family.

I didn't even realise there was anything unusual about men dating other men until I was about 12.

But I'm getting off point. Today I saw this picture captioned


It's an awesome picture so I clicked to see the other captions and "he's gay" was the theme in about 50% of the other captions. Some were nice, some were nasty, but seriously, half the captions mentioned his being gay. I searched for other images of NPH on the site and the same thing happened, so it's not just because of the picture.

Why? So he's a gay man playing a straight character. He's not the first and he wont be the last. Have people never heard of Rock Hudson, Anthony Perkins or Richard Chamberlin? Seriously, this is not a new phenomenon. They're actors, playing other people. John Wayne wasn't really a cowboy and Michael C Hall isn't really a serial killer.

I get why the haters bring it up but will someone please tell me why even those who love him must continually bring up that he's gay? Am I so out of touch? Is being gay still really so sensational?

I mean please, when captioning Neil Patrick Harris there is tons of comedic material you can play with. Most of it much funnier and more more interesting that "ooh, he's gay". As much as I love Doogie Howser (and always will, impressions formed in childhood are hard to change) there is some good comedic material in that. Now he plays Barney Stinson, the catch phrase coining, walking joke who is the funniest thing about How I Met Your Mother. Not to mention Dr Horrible. Use your imaginations people.

It's such a shame that today's media frenzy means that people can't have a private life. I can completely understand why those in the public eye want to keep being gay quiet, because once you're "out" that seems to be all people are interested in. It doesn't matter how good you are at what you do, you'll always be the "the gay person who was really great at something" rather than just the person who was really great at something.

Anyway, let's finish on a high note. I wish more of my childhood hero's had turned out so normal and well adjusted.

neil patrick harris

Saturday, 3 April 2010

The New New Who

I am a geek. Sure, I generally hide it well but I am a geek at heart, on par with an MIT graduate according to one personality test I took.

Knowing that, it should come as no surprise that I'm a Dr Who fan but I have a sort love hate relationship with the newest incarnations of the Doctor.

Russell T Davies was a hack. His plots were full of holes and as his seasons progressed, he seemed to become more and more enamoured of his own prowess and indulged in writing some of the worse TV ever.

Christopher Eccleston's series was the best. RTD's head wast too big and Christopher Eccleston has enough gravitas that I could overlook the gaping plot holes in favour of some great acting. Even Billie Piper was good, I think being with Chris made her up her game.

David Tennant was a fun doctor, i liked him, but he didn't have the same prowess as Chris so I could forgive less, and of course the show started believing it's own hype and the problems got bigger. There are some stand outs in David's era, but not many. And as for Rose's character, oh sweetheart, what did they do to you? Once you were a kick ass companion, by the end you were a whiney, love sick brat travelling between dimensions for a man who left you behind (and did so again when you found him, albeit with a pale imitation of himself to keep you happy). We must placate the wimens, after all. It's not like a woman ever survived having a broken heart and moved on to live a good life.

And don't even get me started about what they did with Martha. Talk about missing an opportunity.

I was pleased when I heard that RTD was standing down and Stephen Moffat was taking over. I had liked most of his episodes in the past and was hopeful he would improve the show.

I was also pleased when he said he wouldn't be bringing back any old bad guys. To be honest, I'm getting a little tired of the Daleks or Cybermen being behind every other plot.

However, after viewing the pilot, my hopes are fading. Talk about self indulgent!

The first 10 minutes were just about having fun. They told us nothing about the characters or the new doctor and the humour was childish in the extreme. The plot points that were revealed in those 10 minutes could easily have been compressed into 60 seconds.

And so it continued for the rest of the episode, culminating with a preview of the rest of the series and who should show up prominently in that preview. The weeping angels, the Daleks AND the Cybermen. Now the weaping angels we've only seen once, i dont mind them coming back, but must the Daleks and Cybermen show up every frickin series! Use some imagination! There's a whole universe out there, why not show a little diversity!

And while we're on that subject, aliens who have human looking eyeballs as their... communicators? most likely aliens wouldn't look a thing like us, so why would they model their technology on human eyeballs? Human eyes aren't even that good, as eyes go, many other species have much better vision than we do.

My high hopes have been dashed.

Will i continue to watch? Probably. It is Dr Who, a staple of my childhood.

But I wasn't desperate to see this episode, I didn't watch it when it aired as I used to in season 1 of New Who. Who has been relegated from cant miss TV to filler TV, what I watch when there's nothing else on. It's just such a shame, it has so much potential that's being wasted.

But to end on a high(er) point, I think I like the new companion, however the marriage and slight romantic vibes are giving me pause. And after both Rose and Martha, can you blame me for being worried?

Wednesday, 31 March 2010

How to make a video/trailer

I am always being asked how I make my video's and to a lesser extent my book trailer, so I decided to make a post about it.

About 9 months ago I knew my book would be published and I knew I wanted a trailer for it so I began looking into vidding (well, after nearly having a heart attack when when I saw the prices for getting it professionally made).

I know it can seem scary and like there's no way you can ever learn something so outside the realm of your experience, but just go for it! I've had my own business since I was 21 so I'm used to doing things myself rather than having to pay for it. Turns out, most things aren't actually as hard as you might imagine.

So, the first point to remember when learning how to vid is... Enjoy it! Seriously, don't just play around for the sake of it, find a project that captures your imagination but isn't too long.

I chose to make a fan video for Leverage (because I happened to have those files on my computer) to the Ducktales theme. Partly because I have a weird sense of humour and partly because the Ducktales theme is only a minute long.

I will explain how to get clips lower down but for now lets stick with having fun!

It took me about five hours. That seems like a lot for 1 minute of video but I was just learning but more importantly, I was enjoying learning. It now takes me between 4-6 hours for a full length song (about 3 ½ minutes on average).

So this was my very first attempt.

No, it's not brilliant, but for a first attempt it's pretty damn good, I think.

Pleased with that I moved on to other songs, the A-Team theme, MacGyver theme, gradually moving up to longer songs, like the Mission Impossible film theme, a couple of Queen songs (because I love Queen).

I then found a new TV show I loved, The Vampire Diaries, and started making vids for that.

Gradually I learned my craft, the features, how to do transitions, effects etc etc.

I discovered I'm not a huge fan of effects, but when I need them, I now know how to use them.

And most importantly, it has never felt like work. In fact I enjoy it as much as my writing. I've even had a couple of the screenwriters comment about my vids, which obviously was very cool.

I still make videos because I suffer with insomia. Sometimes I am unable to write in those times and vidding is now my substitute.

I will stress at this point, these fan video's are only made for fun, no profit was made, no copyright infringement was intended and the copyright is still held by the original artists.

So you can see how I've improved over time (if in fact I have) this is my most recent video to show the skill level I'm at today (about 6 months later).

So, now we've covered how to learn, here's what you will need to learn.Turns out, not a hell of a lot.

The hardest part if finding clips and music. You already have software you'll need.

Episodes of many TV shows are now available from Amazon and iTunes. If you can afford that option, it's the best one because you legally own the episodes. You don't have the right to redistribute them and if a company should crack down on these vids, your video may still be removed, but you have not committed piracy.

If you are unable to legally download episodes you have two options.

1. Rip the episode from a legally bought DVD (using Windows Media Player, WMP). You will then have to convert the clip to AVI. I use Total Video Converter (TVC) because it converts almost anything to almost everything. It's about $40, but well worth the investment.

2. Torrents. No I won't give you a step by step, 'how to break the law' but I assume you all know how to use google.

For music, iTunes is great, or once again you can use WMP to rip a CD, but you will probably have to convert it to MP3 format. Once again TVC can convert it for you. If you have a video clip with audio you want to rip and use, again TVC will convert video to audio only, just choose the MP3 output.

Vidding software is a little harder because it's very much dependant on personal taste. Start off with Windows Movie Maker (it comes with Windows operating systems so just search for it then send a shortcut to your desk top).

WMM is a great program to practice on, it's easy to use, very easy to edit and trim clips and then drop/drag them into the time line.

Once you've mastered the basics, you might want to move up to something more complicated, like Adobe or Sony. I have tried both but I prefer WMM and continue to use that. Though I stress, I like WMM, not WMM Live. I hate that new version. Even if you've upgraded to windows 7, if you have an old operating system disk hanging around, the original WMM will be one of the programs on there (it comes free with every operating system, just like internet explorer).Mac also provide free software iMovie, but I have no experience of that program.

Now, making a trailer for your book is slightly more complicated than a fan vid because obviously you cant use copyrighted material. They'll let you get away with it for a fan vid, but not for something you plan to use to make money from.

That means, unless you want to hire actors, you're going to have to use pictures, not video clips. That makes it harder to make things interesting, but with the skills you've learned, not impossible.

And remember, everything you use will have to be copyrighted to you or copyright free. I have seen a trailer on You Tube that did use copyrighted images, though they tried to disguise them. That didn't stop an eagle eyed fan spotting it though. The danger here is that if you are reported, you can also be sued because you're using the images for commercial purposes. With a fan vid, your video would just be taken down.

If your book is specific then you may need to take your own pictures. The cheapest way to do this is to rope friends and family in. Make sure your pictures are high quality and go for a good resolution when you save them (like 300 dpi or ppi)

If, however you can use generic pictures, there are some great royalty free sites you can get images from. Click here for a list of them.

This one is my favourite.

There are also some royalty free video clips available now, but not very many. Do a google search and you'll find some.

For music, try googling or doing a you tube search for royalty free music. I used this site (I heavily edited the track, but hopefully you'll find something you don't need to edit).

Next, make it interesting. If you've played around, you'll already know how to use the effects (like movement, zoom, transitions, volume adjustments and subtitles) so make good use of them now to keep your video interesting.

Finally, with a trailer, keep it short and snappy, ideally keep it to under a minute. What can I say, people have short attention spans. If you're not an NCIS fan, how many of you who watched that second video watched all the way through? Exactly. Most people clicking on your trailer don't already know your book or it's characters, they will have the attention span of a gnat.

Saturday, 27 March 2010

How should you behave once you've "made it"

Well, in my humble opinion, not like this.

Here are a few excepts from that article.

Nicholas Sparks has no love for people who call his stories "romances."

The mega-best-selling author ... stands in the aisle of Book Soup, literally and figuratively defending his turf.

"If you look for me, I'm in the fiction section. Romance has its own section," he says toward the end of a long conversation. Sunshine streams in from Sunset Boulevard. He's smiling. Hard.

"I don't write romance novels." His preferred terminology: "Love stories — it's a very different genre. I would be rejected if I submitted any of my novels as romance novels."

And what, exactly is so wrong with prople calling your books romance? Why do you view that as an insult? Because you think you're better than romance writers. Don't deny it!

Sparks says: "I'm going to interrupt you there. There's a difference between drama and melodrama; evoking genuine emotion, or manipulating emotion. It's a very fine eye-of-the-needle to thread. And it's very rare that it works. That's why I tend to dominate this particular genre. There is this fine line. And I do not verge into melodrama. It's all drama. I try to generate authentic emotional power."

But, well, he always does kill someone by the end of his tales, usually to maximum handkerchief effect.

"Of course!" Sparks says. "I write in a genre that was not defined by me. The examples were not set out by me. They were set out 2,000 years ago by Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides. They were called the Greek tragedies. A thriller is supposed to thrill. A horror novel is supposed to scare you. A mystery is supposed to keep you turning the pages, guessing 'whodunit?'

"A romance novel is supposed to make you escape into a fantasy of romance. What is the purpose of what I do? These are love stories. They went from (Greek tragedies), to Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, then Jane Austen did it, put a new human twist on it. Hemingway did it with A Farewell to Arms."'

He puts himself in the same class as Austen, Shakespere and Hemmingway? You don't do that, other people do that for you.

And even if you were as great as Shakespeare, you're still writing fiction. I highly doubt even Shakespeare has actually changed anyone's life. Convinced someone not to divorce their husband or wife, convinced an alcoholic to quit, made a murderer rethink things and put down the knife.

You are a romance writer, you write fictional stories that people enjoy reading. You are not performing open heart surgery, you are not raising money for starving children, you are not campaigning for new laws to improve peoples lives. You are a writer who is very successful.

End of story.

Cormac McCarthy? "Horrible," he says, looking at Blood Meridian. "This is probably the most pulpy, overwrought, melodramatic cowboy vs. Indians story ever written."...

Sparks' favorite tale of youth? "I think A Walk to Remember," he says, citing his own novel. "That's my version of a coming-of-age." He pauses and adds: "You have to sayTo Kill a Mockingbird is an all-time classic."

Any he thinks are overrated?

"I don't like to say bad things about others."

Except McCarthy? "He deserves it," Spark says with a laugh.

Asked what he likes in his own genre, Sparks replies: "There are no authors in my genre. No one is doing what I do."

When others (James Patterson?) are suggested to him, he keeps his lips pursed

And now you have the gall to look down on other, equally or more successful authors. Sure, you don't like to "say bad things" yet somehow you still make your contempt palpable.

In my experience, only those who feel they are lacking feel the need to look down on others. People who are happy with who they are, what they do and how they live don't feel the need to denigrate others. And most certainly not in a public forum.

Secretly, Mr Sparks, you think you are a romance writer (he even calls his books romance a few times) and you hate the fact you're making your living on something you see as cheap and tawdry.

Well, Mr Sparks, who gives a crap? Your readers? Obviously not, they keep buying your books. If your readers are happy, why cant you be? What does it matter if some hack calls your books romance? Why should a total strangers opinion bother you so very much?

It shouldn't. You have written your books, done your best but once you publish, how the public interpret your work is out of your hands. You cannot control how other people see your work and bitching and whining just makes you look petty.

When the interview is over, he has a question of his own.

"You going to call it a romance novel?" he asks.

I had a boyfriend once (we'll call him PSX) who looked down on the working class. Hated them. PSX was a successful businessman, living abroad and seemingly content in his life, yet he had this utter contempt for the working class that I couldn't understand.

I am middle class, privately educated and just as happy in a 5 star restaurant as in a working class house. All through our relationship PSX kept grilling me on middle class behaviour. How did I know how many dinner settings to buy, how did I know which knife and fork to use, how to serve tea properly etc. Then he'd get in little digs, like wasn't I thick to call a toilet a loo, a desert a pudding and I was very foul mouthed for someone "supposedly" middle class.

I have to say, his opinion didn't bother me, I know who I am, I don't feel bad when I use terms like loo, I really don't swear that often, and I wont apologise for the times when I do because I'm usually under stress at those times. And most importantly, I'm not trying to be someone I'm not. I'm me. Love me or loath me, I am who I am and I make no apologies for that.

I've mixed with enough working class people over the years. 2 boyfriends were firmly in the working class camp and happy with it. They didn't mind my middle classness any more than I minded them being working class. I respected them as people and loved them for who they were. And so what if they forgot to put their napkin on their lap sometimes? It's only a napkin, not the end of the world.

I've also done my share of manual labour over the years, jobs I took over the holidays and part time while in college. Sure, a lot of the people I worked with couldn't converse on the finer points of Wagner or discuss the merits of the new Poet Laureate, but who cares? They were nice, fun, decent people. And that's the key, they were people. It doesn't matter how much money you have in the bank, everyone's shit stinks.

Just because I was raised differently than those people, doesn't make me a better person. Or a worse person.

Gradually I have come to the realisation that only pretenders look down on others.

PSX was raised working class and although his whole family have elevated themselves in status, he still feels like a pretender. He still looks down on where he came from like there's something wrong with it because he doesn't want people to think he's one of them.

And Nicholas Sparks looks down on romance writers because he knows that's essentially what he does. He can dress it up however he wants, but love story is just another way of saying romance. But he doesn't want to be a romance writer so he tries to distance himself from them and looks down on them.

Let it go, Nicholas. Trust me, you are never going to change the mind of everyone else in the world. The only person you have any power over is you. So embrace your inner romantic and learn to be proud of what you do, no matter what someone else calls it.

You'll be much happier in the long run!

My books are probably the soap opera of writing. They're fantasy books who's only job is to entertain. Call them whatever the hell you want to, I don't care. If they entertained you, I'm happy. If you didn't like them, I'm sorry but maybe I'm not for you. I haven't liked every book I've ever read.

Call them cheap, tawdry and melodramatic if you want to. Maybe you're right and they are. I didn't set out to write the new Crime and Punishment or to win a Booker prize. I offer you my book for your enjoyment, what you make of it is entirely up to you and wont affect my self image. I know what it is that I write, and I'm happy with it.

Monday, 22 March 2010

Your Dream Job vs Reality

I was trawling message boards today when I came across this post.

I can't consider writing a hobby. It's my chosen profession that I don't happen to be making any money from yet.

I'm working on a screenplay, and have ideas for several more, but it's hard to imagine getting into the business of film. I don't want to rewrite somebody else's work, use somebody else's idea, or adapt somebody else's novel; I just want to write my own original scripts. I also don't want to have to deliver a pitch. I realize all that makes it phenominally unlikely that anything I write will ever be produced.
Many people wish they could change careers, and lets face it, the majority of jobs today aren't exactly fulfilling. Most workers sit at a desk/computer/phone from 9 till 5, day in, day out, with little appreciation for what they do.

But some of those people also have a dream of doing something else, something that's probably only a hobby at the moment. The list is endless, but things like flower arranging, painting, writing, dress making and dog breeding. If only they had the resources or were given the opportunity, they'd jump at it.

And so many of them will find themselves disappointed because the reality fails to live up to their dreams.

When something is a hobby, you only see the good parts of it like the artistry of painting, the creativity of writing or the cute puppies of breeding. When you make something your career though, it's accompanied by so many other annoyances that have little or nothing to do with what you love.

Painters need to paint what sells. No matter how much you enjoy painting old tyres, if there isn't a market of buyers, then you'd better get painting some landscapes or be prepared to join the dole queue.

If you love writing, you'd better be prepared to edit the hell out of your work before you present it for sale. Spelling, grammar, plot, all will probably need a lot more work than you would normally put in to a piece of work.

And then there's the fact you're likely to be self employed. It's up to YOU to sell your work. You have to approach galleries and publishing houses. You have to advertise your pedigree puppies and your flower shop to the world.

Then you have to do your own administration work, do your own bookkeeping, income tax and VAT returns (or be prepared to pay quite a bit for someone else to do them).

In short, when you turn a hobby into your job, you have to be prepared to work at it and to do the grunt work as well as the bits you truly enjoy.

I love writing. I hate editing. I love creating the characters, winding them up and watching them go. I hate administration and filing and book keeping. I love receiving a good review from a reader. I hate receiving a rejection letter.

But I am so lucky to be able to hate those things, because I'm doing what I love. It's worth every paper cut and every second of tedium because when that's done, I get to write.

The poster above is not a professional writer no matter what he tells himself. Unless you're willing to work at it, you're a dabbler, not a professional. If he did lay the ground work (and assuming he's actually any good) one day he would find he was in a position to only write what he wanted.

No matter what your dream job is, no one is going to come along and offer you everything you want on a silver platter. Life just isn't that kind. but work hard, stay with it, and don't lose sight of what it is that you love, and one day you could be living your dream too.

Sunday, 21 March 2010


Just a quick email to say, "Welcome to my blog".

I'm Cat, an author. My first book is out and my second on the way (20,000 words and counting).

My website is here and you can find all sorts of information about me and my books on there.

But this blog wont just be about writing but about anything that catches my attention and I think needs to be highlighted.

Hope you enjoy sticking around!